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Rational Morality

A Short Book Based on Derek Parfits Reasons and Persons

Richard Nevin

Cover Image The Good Samaritan by Johann Karl Loth (Circa 1676)

Rational Morality
Richard Nevin

2012 3

Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.

Thomas Jefferson

Preface.................................................................................................... 7

Part One
Self-Defeating Theories
Chapter 1 What we have reason to do ................................................................... 13 Chapter 2 Other Theories ...................................................................................... 21 Chapter 3 The Morality of the Bible ..................................................................... 25 Chapter 4 Mistakes in Moral Mathematics ........................................................... 31 Chapter 5 Morality as a Mere Means .................................................................... 41 Chapter 6 Revising Common Sense Morality ....................................................... 49

Part Two
Rationality and Time
Chapter 7 The Best Objection to S ........................................................................ 55 Chapter 8 Why We Should Reject S ..................................................................... 65 Appendix 1 ........................................................................................... 71 Bibliography ........................................................................................ 73 5

Do we have reason to be moral? Can it be rational to be selfless and act in the interests of others? As an atheist I have been asked more than once why, if I dont believe in God and in absolute right and wrong, I dont abandon any pretence towards morality and live a totally selfish life. The basis for this question is presumably that if there is no judge, no heavenly surveillance and no after life, why shouldnt we live a life of pure hedonism and rape, steal and pillage as the mood takes us? This book hopes to answer the question of why we have reason to be moral and to propose a rational basis for morality that is independent of any religious doctrine. This may seem to be a tough challenge. The very idea of secular morality is a non-sequitur for many people of faith who believe that morality can only come from God. There is also the problem that scientists and theologians seem to have long ago agreed that science can have nothing to say about issues that have traditionally been the province of religion. The famous author and scientist, Stephen Jay Gould promoted the much quoted notion that science and religious doctrines operate in so-called Non-overlapping Magisteria, or NOMA.1 However, the rationale behind NOMA has been challenged by influential scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. In Dawkins recent book, The God Delusion, he writes:32 Why shouldnt we comment on God, as scientists? And why isnt Russells teapot, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, equally immune from scientific scepticism?a universe with a creative superintendent would be a very different kind of universe from one without. Why is that not a scientific matter? Sam Harris New York Times Best Seller, The Moral Landscape2 challenges the validity of NOMA by proposing a scientific basis for morality. Harris suggests that in order to ground moral values in a 7

scientific framework we simply need to realise that morality ultimately reduces to concern for human wellbeing. In the absence of any metaphysical beliefs, issues of right and wrong, good and evil, boil down to issues of human welfare. Once this causal relationship is accepted all moral choices can be judged according to degree to which they enhance or diminish our experience of life and the affect we have on the lives of others. Firmly placing moral choices in the context of human wellbeing closes the gap between values and scientific evidence, and brings with it the possibility of a universal morality that is immune to relativistic challenges where anything can be accepted as moral if enough people believe it. My interest in morality and ethics led me to what some philosophers consider to be the greatest work on moral philosophy published in the last century, Derek Parfits Reasons and Persons.3 Parfit claims that we are wrong to assume that self-interest is the only rational stance in a godless world and argues that to be moral is no less rational. He suggests that many of us have views about morality that are selfdefeating and that we often act in ways that appear blameless but that harm other people. Reasons and Persons also challenges our commonly held beliefs about personal identity and the existence of a permanent self. Parfit shows that our perception of self must be an illusion through the use of thought experiments and real life examples of so-called, Split-brain patients.4 Parfits book is in many ways less accessible to the popular science reader than Harris book, both because of its complexity and because of its academic style. However, having relayed some of the core ideas and thought experiments in Reasons and Persons to friends and work colleagues, I have realized how universally fascinating they are. I am prompted, therefore, to write this concise and greatly simplified version of Reasons and Persons, to entice more people to read this important book. In compiling this book I have retained many of Parfits thought experiments as I found them to be particularly thought inspiring, and I feel sure the reader will share my enthusiasm. As my own 8

contributions will not be readily separable from Parfits, I do not claim that my book is a simple summary of Parfits book, but rather that it is my interpretation of it with many sections of my own. One of my concerns in writing this book was that in condensing the complex subject matter involved, and in only providing the briefest reference to some key areas of scientific knowledge, I will not give due credit to the large body of work that supports them. I trust the reader will allow for the fact that this is a short book and will research any assertions that may seem to be counter-intuitive. The simple truth is that most of science is counter-intuitive: take, for example, the fact that matter is not as solid as it seems. It is not by intuition but by the force of experimental evidence that we know that a brick wall is actually 99.9999% empty space,5 and that you have just breathed in at least one molecule of air that was part of Julius Caesars dying breath!6 With regard to the references that I provide in this book, rather than following a traditional style of referencing I choose to hyperlink my references to Webpages that support them. I did this both for the sake of simplicity, and because anyone who reads this book electronically using an internet ready device will be able to follow the references with ease. Finally, I would like to point out that I do not consider myself to be a particularly moral person or worthy of preaching morality from my own life experiences; I simply wish to spread some good ideas.


Part One
Self-Defeating Theories



Chapter 1
What we have reason to do
Virtue For the last two millennia it has been assumed by moral philosophers that morality and self-interest coincide. Most religious doctrines like Christianity and Islam, for example, teach that selfless acts will be rewarded in the after-life, so that to be moral is in an individuals interest in the long-term. Parfit suggests that because there is no evidence to support a belief in God and an after-life, self-interest may often conflict with morality. For example, if there is no God then a selfless act like laying down your life for a child is the worst possible outcome in terms of your self-interest, as it will not be compensated for in an after-life. Secular acts of heroism are therefore far more worthy of our respect and admiration than equivalent acts of heroism performed by a person of faith. There are three common claims about virtue that a secular worldview challenges: 1) No one does what is worse for him. 2) Virtue is always rewarded 3) Virtue is its own reward. The first statement is clearly not true in the case of secular heroism as noted above, the second is not true if God does not exist, and the third is not always true because although we may be happy to have acted virtuously, our lives may be worse because of our virtuous act. Consider the example of a person who sacrifices his desire to get married and raise a family in order to work as a voluntary overseas aid worker. He may derive great satisfaction from the fact that he is helping people in need, but his life may still be less happy than it could have been if he had married, had children and enjoyed the rewards of being a family man. 13

Self-Interest Theory If we assume that God does not exist and therefore self-interest does not coincide with morality, it may seem that the only rational position that can be defended is to support a theory of pure self-interest, like Self-Interest Theory,8 or S. Indeed, this has been the position of many philosophers through history. Hedonism is one form of self-interest theory that most of us would recognize. Hedonism gives to each the aim that his life be as happy as possible. One of the key tenants of this pursuit of being purely self-interested is that we should never be selfdenying. However, when we examine what makes us happy we find that contrary to the claims of hedonism, what we have reason to do includes not just looking out for our own immediate needs and desires, but also includes being considerate of the needs and desires of our family and loved ones. Our concern for other people gives us reason to maximize their needs and goals, often at the expense of our own. For example, as it is true that it makes me happy to give my children a happy childhood, I am willing to devote most of my spare time and income to achieve this. Unlike the case of the voluntary overseas worker above, in this example the sacrifices I am making in terms of my time and income both coincide with, and are outweighed by, my happiness in raising a happy family. In other words, I am not making sacrifices to do good; I am making sacrifices to be happy. What is in our self-interest also includes satisfying the longer term goals in our life like gaining some qualification, for example, or achieving some physical goal like losing weight. Examples like these require us to sacrifice some immediate pleasure, like relaxing in our spare time, or enjoying a tasty treat, in order to achieve our longer term goals. It may also be in our self-interest to participate in some shared activity, like for example, helping to build a village hall that everyone in the community we live in would benefit from. However, in terms of what is rational, it would only be rational to help in such a project if you believed that a sufficient number of other people would also contribute. This would ensure that you do not end up putting more time and resources into the project than you could possibly get from it. When enough people cooperate the cost to any one individual is


outweighed by the benefit to all making participation rational in terms of self-interest. When we consider that in practice many secularists participate in cooperative ventures without knowing whether enough other people will contribute to make it worth their while, we are faced with the question of why people are generally kind and generous in nature. This question also applies to the more dramatic displays of selflessness such as when a person gives their life to save a stranger. How did this innate altruistic instinct originate in our psyche? What is the evolutionary basis for altruism? Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation (EEA) Our innate altruistic mind-set was forged over the million or so years that our ancestors spent as hunter gathers on the African Plains, during the late Pleistocene.9 This is termed our Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation, or EEA.10 Our ancestors were big brained social apes who lived in small groups of closely related individuals, and who therefore would have shared many of their genes with other group members. Through the process of Kin Selection23 acting on these shared genes, the behavioural adaptations of cooperation and reciprocal altruism (you scratch my back and I will scratch yours) evolved.10,11 Big brains allowed individuals to keep track of complex social exchanges, and to remember who could be trusted to cooperate, and who couldnt. The evolution of our altruistic nature would therefore have been augmented by a tendency to both dislike free loaders and cheats, and a desire to avoid being known as a free loader or cheat ourselves.12 Cheats would have been strongly selected against as cheating would have resulted in ostracism by other group members, thus reducing an individuals reproductive success. The EEA therefore adapted us to be generally kind and sharing in nature, and has also led to our tendency to believe that other in-group members (as opposed to people from another tribe, for example) will be kind and sharing too. Our desire to punish cheats is still at the forefront of our minds and is demonstrated by the fact that modern societies


reserve much harsher punishments in law for fraud compared to crimes like assault or rape. 13 The advantage of cooperation In the early 1980s the political scientist Robert Axlerod 29 was interested in exploring the viability of reciprocal altruism as a strategy to enhance group living. He organized a computer tournament in which academic colleagues were invited to submit computer programmes that could compete in iterative rounds of a computer based version of the Prisoner Dilemma (see Chapter 5 for a detailed description of the Prisoners Dilemma). The submitted strategies were required to remember their opponents previous moves and were judged purely in respect of self-interest. The outcome was intended to show which social strategy gave the best outcome when a person is faced with repeated opportunities to cooperate with another individual. Axelrod discovered that greedy and selfish strategies tended to do very poorly in the long run while more altruistic strategies did better. A programme called Tit for tat emerged as the best strategy and was also the simplest, containing only four lines of BASIC.28 Tit for tat was successful because it followed these simple rules: 1) The agent will always cooperate, until provoked 2) If provoked, the agent will always retaliate 3) The agent is quick to forgive Altruism towards Non-Kin The evolution of reciprocal altruism by kin-selection explains why we are altruistic towards kin but does not seem to answer the question of why we are also altruistic towards non-kin. For example, when a fireman risks his life by walking into a blazing building to rescue a complete stranger, how can he be driven to do so by an unconscious psychological mechanism that functioned during the EEA to promote the survival of kin? Such true altruism must therefore be distinguished from apparent altruism described above, and as such seems to require its own explanation. However, true altruism probably could not have evolved at all as it would not have enhanced 16

the survival of any genes that promoted it. True altruism is therefore likely to be an example of an ex-adaptation, i.e. the use of an adaptive trait in a situation in which it is not adaptive, due to a mismatch between the environment we live in today and that of the EEA. When viewed in this way true altruism emerges as a by-product of our general social cooperativeness.22 There are many examples of exadaptations in humans, for example, having sex whilst using contraceptives. A strong motivation to have sex is an adaptive trait that ensures the propagation of an individuals genes. But sex with a condom serves no reproductive function and therefore represents the use of an adaptive trait in a non-adaptive manner. We tend to be driven to exhibit some ex-adaptations like wanting to have protected sex because the original adaptive trait has a strong emotional basis. By being both willing and able to defeat our genes we can explain why we feel compelled to act altruistically, towards strangers. Although altruism towards non-kin could not have evolved as an adaptation in its own right, the fact that we are prepared to cooperate with strangers has advantages for everyone. For example, the society that we live in today and the technology that we all benefit from could not have been achieved without cooperation between unrelated people. In summary, altruism towards kin is rational in that it motivates us to set up a reciprocal relationship with people who will help ensure both our survival and the survival of our children. This book hopes to show that altruism towards non-kin can also be a rational motivation. Is S Self-Defeating? Let us now go back to Self-interest Theory (S) and look more closely at the consequences of following S. As we tend to live in social groups where cooperation benefits everyone, if we all followed S and acted purely in our own self-interest this would be worse for everyone. Consider a scenario where you and I are members of an isolated group who have been given a limited amount of food to share. If we all follow S and act selfishly by consuming as much food as we desire then very soon there will be no food left, and everyone will go hungry. To follow S in such situations would be collectively self-defeating. But S is not a theory about what we should all do: it is a theory about what an 17

individual should do. In the same scenario where everyone has realized that we need to ration the food to make it last, an individual will still do better if he follows S by cheating and selfishly taking more than his quota. He would, however, need to try to ensure that he was not found out as his punishment by the other group members may result in his being worse off overall than if he had not cheated. S, therefore, is collectively self-defeating but it is not individually self-defeating, so it does not fail in its own terms of being a theory about what an individual has reason to do. My S given aim is that my life should go for me, as well as possible. I may fail in my S given aims for two reasons; 1) I may fail in my attempts to follow S through incompetence, but this is not interesting to discuss; 2) It may be worse for me if I am never self-denying. This second reason suggests that it may be better for me if I had some disposition other than selfishness. In the example above, and in the previous example of a community project to build a village hall, if I act selfishly the outcome will be worse for everyone including me. Although never being self-denying would sometimes be worse for me, S is not defeated by this fact because S does not actually tell us to be never self-denying. S tells us that we should aim that our lives go as well as possible, but S does not tell us that we should necessarily act rationally in order to achieve this. We may therefore be justified in acting irrationally if this best achieves our S given goals. To understand this point it must be remembered that what distinguishes one theory of rational action from another is not their formal aims but their substantive aims. Formal aims are the goal-rational of a theory. For example, the formal aim of communism is to maximize the total welfare of a society. Substantive aims are the value-rational of a theory. In the example of communism, our values inform our decisions about what actions we would consider acceptable in order to achieve the formative aim of maximizing welfare. It may be true that in order to best maximize welfare we should use each other purely as commodities without any consideration of personal freedoms (as is suggested in some forms of communism), but our values may conflict 18

with this optimal manner of achieving our formative goals. We may need to compromise by adopting an alternative sub-optimal solution like democracy, for example, so that our values arent compromised. A famous example of how following S may include the substantive aim of being irrational is given by Shellings in his book The Strategy of Conflict.14 Schellings Answer to Armed Robbery An armed intruder has broken into your house and set off the house alarm, but it will be several minutes before the police arrive. The intruder tells you to open your safe or he will kill your children one by one. You have reason to believe that if you dont open the safe he will very likely carry out his threat. However, you realize that if you do open the safe he will be likely to shoot you all anyway so that you cant identify him to the police. Either way then you will all be shot. If you can convince the intruder that you are mad he will lose all his bargaining power. When he threatens to kill one of your children you should say go ahead, I love my children. If he tortures you should say, This is agony, so please carry on. If the intruder believes you are mad he will have no power over you and he may have less reason to believe that you could identify him. Seeing that his attempts to persuade you are getting him nowhere, his only option will be to flee before the police get there. As this example shows acting irrationally may sometimes get us what we want, so S can claim that it would be rational for us to follow some theory other than S if that would be better for us at that time. This makes it harder for us to reject S.



Chapter 2
Other Theories
Self-Interest Theory (S) is not the only rational theory of what we have reason to do. As we may care about the interests of others, nonreligious morality also gives us reasons to act. Let us contrast S with different forms of morality. Consequentialism (C) Consequentialism, or C, is a theory concerned with the objective good of our acts. C states that our moral aim is that outcomes be as good as possible for as many people as possible. According to C we ought to act in ways that bring about the best expected outcome. Our expectation can be judged by a combination of the value of the act and its chance of success. Because C is only concerned with the outcome of acts and not their implications at the subjective level, C leads us to act in an agent neutral manner that we may find unacceptable. For example, as the population of Germany before WWII was 60 million and the death toll that resulted from the war was 70 million, C can claim that it would have been better if the entire population of Germany had been executed in 1939, as this would have saved 10 million lives.15 The objective focus of C, therefore, makes it an unacceptable moral theory as we intuitively find moral motivations that ignore the subjective wrongs of an act to be abhorrent. Common Sense Morality (M) Common Sense Morality, or M, tells us that in order to live a fulfilled life we should have the best possible set of motives towards our family and friends. Unlike Consequentialism (C) but in common with many other moral theories, M requires us to act and in an agent-relative manner. M gives each person a different aim (i.e. to have the best possible set of motives towards their particular family and friends over everyone elses), whilst also requiring us to consider the subjective 21

good of any act. M therefore conflicts with many aspects of C. For example, whilst being a pure do-gooder may be admirable in terms of C because it may be expected to lead to greater happiness for the most number of people, the self-sacrifice required to be a pure do-gooder (which would involve suppressing our deepest held desires such as to love certain people and to achieve certain ambitions), would likely be worse for the individual and therefore be bad in terms of M. Revising C To adopt a consequentialist, agent-neutral, approach towards our family and loved ones would mean denying ourselves the joy that comes with loving our own children more than other peoples children. To love everyone equally would mean we would have no particular reason to put the needs and concerns of our own children over those of other peoples. Such indifference towards our own children would inevitably lead to a loss of the special bond between a child and a parent. Can we really imagine a scenario where a parent is expected not to give special priority to their child in a crisis situation? Would that even be a world we would want to live in? In fact, just such a world has been created by the Kibbutz movement33 in Israel where parents who join a kibbutz are required to give up their children to communal care. It is undeniable that if we in the West shared our resources equally throughout the world, that more children would be alive today. But how many of us would sacrifice our childrens standard of living by giving most of our wages to charity? And if we did, how would our family view our actions? Our reaction to the desperate needs of other peoples children during a terrible crisis like a famine or after a tsunami, for example, is perhaps even less pressing than we may believe it is. The disturbing truth is that the greater the number of people who need our help, the less likely we are to give it. This mistake in our moral mathematics has been the topic of Paul Slovics research and is known as psychic numbing.16 Slovic found that we feel less compassion and are less likely to donate aid to a large group of people than to a small group. We would even be likely to give less to a pair of victims than to either one individually.17 The one encouraging result that came out of this research was that as 22

soon as the subjects were made aware of their bias in moral reasoning the effect disappeared. C needs to be revised so that it takes account of not only our ideal motivations, but also the practical implications of trying to attain these ideals. Even with such changes, most of us, most of the time, should be strongly disposed to follow M rather than C and to do what is morally required of us. This is because M more closely correlates with our attitude to subjective wrongs as well as our desire to give priority to our friends and loved ones. Rationality versus Morality Because S instructs us to act in our own interest, being self-interested is, by definition, rational in terms of S. However, moral theories ask not what is rational but what is right. If we abandon the notion of absolute right and wrong, what is right is anchored only in the consequences of our actions for other people. There are many times when what be rational for someone in terms of self-interest would be morally wrong by this standard. For example, it would be immoral for me to save my life rather than save the life of a child. We can therefore ask which of these two reasons to act is the stronger; to be rational or to be moral. We may decide that there is no neutral scale to compare these two options, but if we can dismiss S by showing that its reasons have no weight we automatically solve the problem.

Because theists claim that absolute right and wrong really exist and that morality can therefore only come from God, the next chapter considers the moral example of the Bible.



Chapter 3
The Morality of the Bible
"Knowing and falsely believing are not different experiences" Derek Parfit

The Morality of the Old Testament It is clear to me at least, having read both the Christian Bible and The Quran that the God of the Abrahamic tradition is not a god that anyone should wish to exist. In Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion,18 Dawkins describe Gods character as follows: The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Although Dawkins meant this paragraph to raise a smile, it is in fact an accurate summary of Gods nature as He is described in the Old Testament (OT). The website, Dwindling In Unbelief provides numerous Bible quotes that directly support each accusation.21 I confess, therefore, that I am greatly relieved that there is no evidence for Gods existence. However, as many people do believe in God but may not have actually read the Bible, I would like to discuss some verses in the Bible where Gods nature can be most vividly contrasted with our common notion of morality. For the purposes of this discussion I will need to assume a belief in God and to credit the stories of the Bible as historical truths. To take one well known example of Gods violent nature in the Old Testament (OT) from many, God instructed the Israelites to massacre the Amalekites by putting them: men, women, children, and suckling 25

babes alike, to the sword.51 According to Christian apologists the Amalekites had to be completely exterminated because battles between the Amalekites and the Israelites threatened the success of Gods ultimate plan to save mankind from sin.18 This plan involved using the Israelites as a worthy platform for bringing Jesus into the world. This of course is an oxymoron, as being worthy does not follow from committing atrocities like genocide and infanticide. I specifically use the term genocide because Gods command was clearly aimed at the complete destruction of a race of people through the mass murder of all members of an ethnic group; i.e. children and babies as well as adults. A further justification for the atrocity was that the Amalekites were an evil people that were beyond help. Ironically, one of the evil acts that doomed the Amalekites to their fate was the heinous act of murdering children (in human sacrifice). The apologetic position is summed up in the concluding paragraph of William Kesaties essay; A Reasonable Understanding of the Destruction of the Amalekites: No righteous or redeemable people were injured in the destruction of the Amalekites.46 As God was prepared to instruct genocide to achieve His goal, He clearly had an objective attitude towards the suffering of the Amalekites. As mentioned above, we instinctively find such acts that consider only the objective good of an outcome to be abhorrent, because our common sense of morality is agent relative and focuses on the subjective good of acts rather than just their objective goals. Presumably less horrific solutions than mass slaughter would have been available to an omnipotent deity who wished to keep two communities apart. Consider, for example, that God was reported to have performed over fifty miracles in the OT. Gods demands for genocide can only be considered to be moral in terms of Common Sense Morality (M) if we accept that genocide was the lesser of two evils that God was forced to choose between (the other being mankinds destruction in the fires of Hell as a result of not being saved by Jesus). Even if God were allowed to be impotent in this 26

manner and to have limited choice in His actions, we must remember that God created the fabled fires of Hell (along with everything else), so genocide is only the lesser of two evils of His own design. The Morality of the New Testament The Morality of the New Testament (NT) is no less abhorrent in terms of Common Sense Morality (M). The doctrine of vicarious redemption by human sacrifice, exemplified by the death of Jesus on the cross, is both illogical and immoral. It is illogical because Jesus is part of the Trinity; "one God in three persons",34 so Jesus suffering on the cross could only have served as payment by God, for a debt of suffering owed to God Himself. Why didnt God simply cancel the debt? We must conclude that either; God has such fervour for retribution that He would rather torture Himself than let a debt of suffering be forgotten; or else the debt was owed to someone else and therefore needed to be paid. God, therefore, is either a masochist, or else He is not all powerful and has to appease some other authority. Vicarious redemption is immoral; firstly, because it glorifies the odious idea that physical suffering rather than honest contrition is necessary to achieve someones forgiveness; and secondly, because Jesus is offered as a scapegoat for the sins of others. Notwithstanding the problem that Jesus is God, it is hard to understand from a moral perspective, why, if someone has wronged God, the atonement of an innocent person should appease Him? Surely the only contrition that should secure Gods forgiveness should be that of the sinner himself? To quote the late Christopher Hitchens in his debate with Douglas Wilson in 2009:19 I can pay your debt if I love you. I can serve your term in prison if I love you very much. I can volunteer to do that. [But] I can't take your sins away, because I can't abolish your responsibility, and I shouldn't offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. According to St Paul the only alternative to Christs sacrifice would have been for God to destroy man for his sins. Romans 6:23 states The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through 27

Jesus Christ our Lord.41 So it seems clear that in Pauls mind someone had to die to placate God. The notion that Jesus death paid for the sins of man, reflects the belief in many cultures throughout history that human sacrifice could be used to appease the gods.38 Other examples of human sacrifice appear in the OT and act as a kind of prelude to Jesus sacrifice in the NT. In Judges 11:30, Jephthah promises God that he will make a human sacrifice in payment for Gods help in battle.37 In Exodus 12:29, God takes the lives of all first born Egyptians as punishment for the Pharaohs disobedience.39 And in Genesis 22:2, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.36 It is revealing that God does not chastise Abraham for agreeing to the shocking crime of child sacrifice, but instead praises his willingness to sacrifice his only son!40 Another derogation of the morality of the NT that is probably unfamiliar to most readers, is that the concept of Hell as being a place of unending torment and pain was not a feature of the Bible until Jesus meek and mild introduced it.35 Jesus variously described hell as: "the fire that never shall be quenched" Mark 9:43, 45 "eternal damnation" Mark 3:29 "in that place there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth" Matt 13:42, 50 "this place of torment" Luke 16:28 "everlasting punishment" Matt 25:46 In the OT hell was more akin to an underworld, a place where everyone goes regardless of the moral choices they made in life.24 To quote a Bible study internet site discussing the Hell of the OT, or Sheol as it is described here: Sheol simply refers to the abode of the dead in general, not particularly the place of the punishment for the wicked. In fact, hell was divided into two compartments, one for the righteous dead and one for the wicked dead.20


Contrary to this more benign description, the vision of hell that the NT (and especially the Quran) offers us is so cruel, that it is clear that Hell is a punishment and not just intended as a metaphor for being denied entry into heaven: "...and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb." Revelation 14:10 We shall send those who reject our revelations to the Fire. When their skins have burned away, we shall replace them with new ones so that they may continue to feel the pain: God is mighty and wise. Quran, Women 56-57 To consolidate the point that Hell is a means of retribution and not correction, consider that Hell does not offer sinners a means to atone for their sins, only to suffer terribly, and eternally for them. Hell could only function to reassure God that the sinners are suffering terribly and without end for wronging Him. Indeed, the Bible tells us as much: Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Romans 12:19 Notwithstanding Jesus revelations about the horrors of Hell awaiting sinners, the narrative of Jesus life introduces us to a gentler, more loving side of God, who in the OT seemed more to be feared than loved. But this of course raises the problem of how the moral character of God can survive the contradiction of God being both a vindictive ethnic cleanser and at the same time as gentle as a lamb. To highlight this discrepancy, let us consider how Jesus would have responded to the morally objectionable commands given by God in the OT discussed earlier. For example, what would Jesus have done if he 29

had been a member of the Israelite tribe ordered by God to massacre the Amalekites? Could Jesus have mercilessly slaughtered little children? Were the babies of the Amalekites not as innocent as the little children that Jesus promised the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 19:12?42 It would seem logically incoherent for Jesus not to take part in the massacre on the basis that he was without sin, as presumably the Israelites were not sinning by following a direct command from God. Also, God was not averse to getting His hands bloody in the Old Testament so why should Jesus be? In fact, it has been estimated that God kills around 2 million people in total in the OT by variously drowning or smiting whole populations.21 So it cannot be objected that God would not be willing to do His own dirty work. But how would we view Jesus, the very epitome of love and mercy, if he did take part? Surely being gentle and loving and being prepared to take part in bloodthirsty genocide do not emerge from the same moral character? It seems clear then, even from the briefest reviews of the Bible that we do not get our innate sense of morality from our holy tradition. What good we do find in the Bible, in Jesus famous Sermon on the Mount,43 for example, we cherry pick from the bulk of immoral examples like those of Gods violent jealousy,44 or His tendency to revel in retribution; cursing whole generations for the sins of the fathers.45 The very fact that we are able to distinguish the moral from the immoral in the Bible demonstrates that we must already possess a pre-formed, innate, sense of morality.


Chapter 4
Mistakes in Moral Mathematics
Common Sense Morality (M) is something of a blunt tool that functions to give us an immediate response to ethical dilemmas. M may often lead us to make serious errors in what is termed moral mathematics that we may overcome with reasoning. In order to examine the basis of such mistakes I will start by stating them formerly: 1) If it is rational for me to have some disposition it cannot be irrational for me to act upon this disposition. In other words, rational dispositions are always rational. The theoretical example given by Schellings Answer to Armed Robbery shows this to be false (see Chapter 1). In Schellings thought experiment I have a rational disposition to value my life and the lives of my children. However, it would be irrational for me to act on this disposition as my only hope of avoiding tragedy is to try to convince the robber that I do not value my life, or the lives of my children. I have to act irrationally in order to convince the robber that I cannot be reasoned with. 2) If it is rational to believe that some act is rational, then this act is rational. In other words, rational acts are always rational. The example of My Slavery below shows this to be false: My Slavery You and I share a desert island. We are both transparent, and never self-denying. You now bring about a change in your dispositions, becoming a threatfulfiller. You have a bomb that could blow the island 31

up. By regularly threatening to explode this bomb, you force me to toil on your behalf. The only limit on your power is that you must leave my life worth living. If my life became worse than death, it would cease to be better for me to give in to your threats. In order to try to escape my forced servitude, I decide to change my disposition and to become a threat-ignorer. Now if you threaten me I will ignore your threat and as a threat-fulfiller you will have no choice but to blow us both up. But because you do not wish to die you do not make your usual threat and my slavery ends. One day you momentarily forget that I am a threat-ignorer and you make your standard threat to detonate your bomb. Although I know that you are a threat-fulfiller, I remain convinced that it is rational for me to be a threatignorer and I ignore your threat, as I foresaw, you detonate your bomb and we both die. Initially it was rational for me to believe that being a threat-ignorer would be rational. I reasoned that being a threatignorer would end my slavery and it did. However, being a threat-ignorer became irrational after my enemy temporarily forgot that I had changed my disposition. My mistake in believing that a rational act can never be irrational resulted in our joint deaths. 3) If there is some disposition that I should cause myself to have, and that it would be wrong for me to loose, it cannot be wrong for me to maintain this disposition. In other words, moral dispositions are always moral. Consider how the following example challenges the statement above: My Blackmail I have a public career that would be wrecked if I were involved in a scandal. My enemy kidnaps my children


and threatens to kill them if I do not pose for an obscene photo. I do so in order to save my children. In this example, the disposition that I should cause myself to have, and that it would be wrong for me to lose, is not to give in to black mail. However, the threat to my childrens lives forced me to temporarily give up this disposition. 4) If I believe that some act is right, it cannot ever be wrong. In other words, moral acts are always moral. The following example challenges the statement above using respect for human rights as the act that I believe to be right: The Terrorist I am an antiterrorist officer and I have just taken a known terrorist into custody. He has admitted to planting a very powerful bomb in a busy shopping centre and has told me that many hundreds of people will be killed or maimed when it goes off. He refuses, even under aggressive interrogation, to tell me where he has planted his bomb. My best chance of extracting the information I need from the prisoner is to subject him to the very effective but minimally harmful torture technique, commonly called Waterboarding.47 (see Appendix 1) I am given authority to use Waterboarding and as predicted the prisoner tells me where the bomb is hidden saving many hundreds of lives. Torturing my prisoner clearly contravenes his human rights but is it justified in this example if it means preventing the deaths of so many innocent people? If it is; statement 4 is a mistake. The four claims above are mistakes because they assume that just because certain acts or dispositions are rational or right, they are 33

therefore always rational or right. The fifth mistake in moral mathematics is concerned with ignoring any small or imperceptible effects that our actions may generate, because we believe that they cannot possibly have any significant effect on other people. Such effects may include imperceptible harms or benefits. 5) If my action has a small or imperceptible effect on other people it cannot be wrong. During the EEA it was possible for there to be imperceptible harms and benefits. Before the dawn of civilization our ancestors lived as huntergatherers in small widely-spaced groups with a population density as low as only one person per square mile.25 This low population density meant that an individuals impact on their environment and on strangers was far less significant than it is today. By contrast the population density in London as estimated by the 2011 census, is over 8000 people per square mile.26 Because our modern brains evolved during the EEA, we lack an intuitive moral sense for the impact that imperceptible harms or benefits can have, when applied to present-day populations of several millions of people living in our modern cities. Let us consider first how being the provider of an imperceptible benefit could be morally required: The Drops of Water A large number of wounded men lie out in the desert. We are an equally large number of altruists each with a pint of water. We could pour our pints into a cart that would be taken to the thirsty men and shared equally amongst them. By adding his pint each of us would give each wounded man one more drop of water to drink. The effect of just one drop of water to even a thirsty man would be negligible.*

Note: Each altruists pint is pooled together with all of the other pints from all the other altruists, so effectively each altruist only gives to each wounded man one drop of water. Each wounded man therefore gets one pint of water because he is getting one drop from each altruist.


Despite the fact that adding my pint will not aid anyone's thirst, nevertheless my pint together with the pints from all of the other altruists will greatly benefit the wounded soldiers. I am, therefore, morally obliged to contribute. In the case of imperceptible benefits, it is what we do together that makes our altruistic acts worthwhile. If any one of us had reason not to contribute then we would all have reason not to contribute and no one would be benefited, which is clearly wrong. Knowing that people are generally altruistic gives me reason to believe that enough people will act to make my contribution worthwhile. Now consider imperceptible harms through a series of thought experiment concerned with torture: The Harmless Torturers, Part I 1000 torturers have 1000 victims. Each torturer turns a switch 1000 times on an instrument designed to cause pain to his victim. Each turn of the switch contributes imperceptibly to the victims pain but by the 1000th turn he has inflicted severe pain on his victim. If we believe that an act cannot be wrong if its effects are imperceptible, then we must conclude that none of the torturers does anything wrong because the torturers only turn their switches one turn at a time. This is clearly absurd. The reason that the torturers are doing wrong is because each seemingly harmless turn of the switch, is part of a larger set of turns that each torturer performs that is perceptible to the victim as pain. We can extend the thought experiment to try to answer the objection above: The Harmless Torturers, Part II This time, instead of each torturer torturing just one victim, all of the instruments are wired together. Each torturer presses a button on his console just once which turns the switch once on each of the 1000 victims 35

instruments. After all of the torturers have pressed their buttons once the switches on all of the victims instruments will have turned one thousand times inflicting severe pain on them. As before each torturers action has no perceptible effect on any of the victims but the combined actions of all of the torturers causes severe pain to all 1000 victims. This alternative scenario avoids the claim that the torturers are doing wrong by repeating an imperceptible harm many times, but it does not make the conclusion that each torturer is blameless any less absurd. In this case, the torturers are doing wrong because they are knowingly part of a larger set of people that together do great harm. These examples lead to a general conclusion: It is wrong to be part of a group of people who are doing some wrong even if your contribution doesn't affect the outcome. This is because if all members of the group refused to take part, no wrong would be done. Sometimes, it is what we do together that matters. It is not just outcomes that are important; intentions are also important. If two people shot the same person at the same time, then rather than neither being guilty of murder, both would be because both intended to cause their victim harm. Let us consider another example of The Harmless Torturer thought experiment to elucidate this point: The Single Torturer A single torturer turns up for work one morning and notices that each of the 1000 victims is suffering the pain equivalent to 500 turns of the switch on their respective instruments, but this pain is caused purely through natural causes. He decides to press his button thus turning the switch on each of the 1000 victims switches once. The effect is the same as if the dials had been turned just once more after a previous 500 turns, i.e. the effect is imperceptible to the victims.


Is he doing any wrong? He knows that he is not causing any victims perceptible pain. He also knows that he is not part of any group that together is causing perceptible pain to the victims. However, the sum total of all of the imperceptible pains that he inflicts on the 1000 victims is equivalent to great suffering. The single torturer is acting wrongly because he intends to do the victims harm, and because he is imposing a great total sum of suffering on the victims, even though the effect on each victim is imperceptible. Summary We do wrong even when an action that is intended to do harm doesnt cause any perceptible effect in the world. This is partly because the victim is likely to mind that someone intended them harm, but also because imperceptible harms can become real harms when a number of acts sum together. We are doing wrong if: 1) An act that we perform is part of a larger set of acts that we will later perform, the accumulated effect of which causes harm (The Temporal Scenario). 2) If we act as part of a larger group whose combined actions together do harm (The Multi-Person Scenario). 3) If we perform a single set of acts on different people, which summed together would be equivalent to harm (The Spatial Scenario). We face many dilemmas in life where we are given the choice of either acting selfishly, or acting for the greater good. It is not enough to ask, Will my act harm other people? Even if the answer is No, our act may be wrong because it will combine with the acts of many other people and cause great harm. In fact, it is often the case that if each of us rather than none of us act selfishly, this will be much worse for everyone. Ignoring Small Chances Some people would claim that below some threshold an act with a very small chance of benefit is not worth doing. This is false when the cost 37

to me of performing the act is near zero but the number of people who could potentially benefit is very large. For example, I may wish for a fair government but feel that voting in an election is pointless because the number of other people voting is so large. To convince myself that my vote is worthwhile I should remember that my vote will have a positive value in terms of achieving my aims; even if only a tiny positive value. This is true because the cost to me of voting is very small, yet the number of people who could potentially benefit by my helping to bring into power a fair government is very large. Everybody elses vote will also have a tiny positive value but the combination of votes decides who wins the election. If I have reason to think that my vote is pointless then so does everybody else and no votes will be cast. When I cannot predict the outcome of my action I should always act to produce the greatest expected benefit. Another important effect is that of small chances that are taken very many times. For example, everyone would agree that a one in a million chance that a critical component of a nuclear reactor will fail is still worth worrying about because of the huge human cost of a nuclear incident. But it is perhaps less obvious that the repeated use of this extremely reliable component is also of great significance; due to repeated use increasing the likelihood of failure. Benefits versus Greater Benefits There is a distinction between benefiting someone and benefiting them more than they would otherwise have been benefited. The same principle applies to harm. Consider the following example: The Trapped Miners 100 miners are trapped under ground with flood waters rising. 4 rescuers are needed to stand on a platform to bring them up. If I go elsewhere I can save 10 miners. There are 5 of us rescuers.


Here are my choices: 1) I can save 1/5 of 100 miners (i.e. 20 miners) by assisting the other rescuers and standing on the platform, leaving one rescuer redundant. 2) I could save 10 miners on my own by going elsewhere. Although saving 10 is less than saving 20, my solo efforts would lead to 10 extra people being saved, so I should save the 10. If my only option was to stand on the platform I should still contribute even though one of us would be redundant. This is because if I have reason not to help then so does everyone else, and no one would be saved.



Chapter 5
Morality as a Mere Means
The aim of Consequentialist morality (C) introduced at the beginning of Chapter 2 is that outcomes be as good as possible for as many people as possible. In terms of C, if we are given the choice of a right act that would greatly benefit one person, or a wrong act that would greatly benefit ten people and harm no one, we should choose to do the wrong act. This claim does not rely on the fact that C is objective, as Common Sense Morality (M) would also require us to do wrong if that meant preserving our special obligation to our loved ones. The concerns of both C and M, therefore, are ultimately that of human wellbeing rather than doing what is right. This implies that morality is not an end in itself: it is a mere means to achieve the ultimate aim of maximizing human wellbeing and should be ignored where it leads to greater unhappiness. The example below shows the importance of judging our actions according to their potential to enhance human wellbeing without reference to what is right and wrong. Murder and Accidental Death X is about to die but as his last act he is about to kill Y. Z is about to be killed in a forest fire. The death of either Y or Z would be equally bad. I can either stop X murdering Y or save Z from the forest fire but I have a slightly greater chance of saving Z. Stopping X murdering Y would mean that there would be less serious wrongdoing in the world. As I believe that morality is a mere means, I should try to save Z as I have a slightly greater chance of success.


There could be many scenarios like this imaginary one where, in terms of human wellbeing, increasing the total amount of wrongdoing in the world would be preferable. Here is another: The End of Poverty and Disease Suppose that all disease and poverty in the world was somehow ended and people ceased to need as a much charity and help from each other as they do now. Human wellbeing would greatly increase as a result of this highly desirable state of affairs, but the amount of morally admirable actions in the world would be greatly reduced. Would a reduction in the amount of good in the world be a bad thing? Not if morality is a mere means. Viewing morality as a mere means differs greatly from the theological perspective where right and wrong are decreed by God, and therefore absolute in nature. For example, Cardinal Newman believed that it would be better for the whole world to suffer extreme agony than for one person to sin and increase the amount of wrong in the world: "The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse."27 The theological position implies that human wellbeing is of no consequence: it is only our wellbeing in the next life that we should be concerned with. The goal of reaching heaven and enjoying eternal life with God would make reductions in our wellbeing in this life defensible. But in the absence of any evidence for God, or for the truth of any of our Holy books, our happiness in this life should be our only concern. 42

Another point against the absolute nature of good and evil is that the religious view is self-contradicting. From the theological perspective what is or isnt right or wrong, good or evil, is ordained by God. So when in the Bible, God performs objectively evil acts like infanticide (Exodus: 11.5), or instructing men to rape women (see evilbible.com48 for 10 examples in the OT), then by the very fact that God ordained it such acts are good. Right and wrong in this context is far from absolute as what is right in the OT is anything that achieves Gods aim at a particular time. Blameless wrongdoing According to Common Sense Morality (M) one of the best possible motives that we should hold in order to maximize human flourishing is to love our family. However, when we make moral choices that put the interests of our family ahead of those of strangers, we are likely to act immorally. For example, when parents use their disposable income to benefit their own children, they are putting the wellbeing of their loved ones ahead of the wellbeing of many millions of children in The Third World. Nevertheless, because family love is one of the motives that M claims we ought not to lose, in such cases we can claim to be engaged in blameless wrongdoing. One of the failings of M is that it cannot accommodate situations where it would be in the interest of our loved ones if we were to temporarily abandon our special commitment to them. Consider the case of the Parents Dilemma below: The Parents Dilemma You and I are two parents of different children and we cannot communicate with each other. Each of us could either save his own child from some harm, or save the other parents child from greater harm. If we both act selfishly we will save our own child the minor harm, but both of our children will suffer the greater harm. If we act morally we will both save the other parents child from the greater harm and both of our children will only suffer the minor harm. 43

Both our children would be better off if we over looked the more minor suffering of our own children and considered the greater suffering of the other parents child to be more important. We need to revise M to take into account this possibility. Chapter 6 will take on this challenge of revising M, as well as attempting to combine the best parts of C and M to achieve a more universal morality. The Issue of Trust The dilemma inherent in the Parents Dilemma above is essentially one of trust. If we could trust that others would always follow The Golden Rule, i.e. One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself,50 then we would feel secure in acting selflessly ourselves and everyone would benefit. The issue of trust was also famously exemplified in Albert Tuckers Prisoners Dilemma.49 Here is Parfits version: The Prisoners Dilemma An accomplice and I are accused by the police of some crime and are taken into separate rooms and pressured into admitting our guilt. My accomplice and I know that if we both keep quiet then we will likely only get 2 years each, but if we both confess then we will both get 10 years. The police know our best defence is to keep quiet, so they try to bribe us into confessing by telling each of us that if he confesses, then he will go free and his accomplice will get 12 years. Here are my choices: 1) If I can trust my accomplice to keep quiet then I should also keep quiet as we would both only get 2 years. However, this choice carries the greatest risk as if he defects and accepts the police bribe whilst I keep quiet, I will get 12 years and he will go free. 2) If I cant trust my accomplice to keep quiet then I should confess as the worst case scenario is that he also


confesses and we both get 10 years, which is still 2 years less than if I keep quiet and he confesses. 3) If I can trust my accomplice to keep quiet and I am prepared to betray his trust, he will get 12 years and I will go free. This selfish option would mean that my accomplice would take the full punishment for our joint crime. I decide that as I cant be sure of my accomplices loyalty my only option is to defect. Likewise my accomplice decides that as he cant be sure of my loyalty his only option is to defect. We both defect and we both get 10 years. The Prisoners Dilemma demonstrates the utility of being able to trust our fellow humans. If my accomplices and I can trust each other not to be selfish we can both benefit serving just 2 years each, rather than only one benefiting ( I go free he gets 12 years, or I get 12 years he goes free); or neither benefiting (we both get 10 years). Unfortunately, we tend to reserve our sense of innate trust for people that we either know personally, or are affiliated with in some way. For most people trusting that someone will cooperate with them when the stakes are high (as in the Prisoner Dilemma), requires that they are familiar with that person. When we know a person well we can better judge if they are likely to cheat in rounds of reciprocity. Alternatively, belonging to a group of people with some common interest such as supporting the same football team, or working for the same company, can short cut the need for individual familiarity through the sharing of a common in-group loyalty. If we can transcend our innate distrust of strangers, despite our lack of social connection to them, then we could solve many of the prisoner dilemmas that face us in the world today. As a striking example, consider the nuclear arms race between Russia and America which has cost both sides billions and put the lives of everyone in the world at risk. If each side could trust the other not to 45

develop new weapons or to increase the size of their nuclear arsenal, then they could both cap their spending on defence and put the money to better use in the development of public utilities like hospitals and housing, for example. It should be noted, however, that an arms race is more complex than The Prisoners Dilemma as it iterative, involving several rounds of action and retaliation. Contributors Dilemmas There are many times in life where we are given the chance to contribute to some public good. Often this may involve some sacrifice on our part but equally it may ensure that an even greater cost is not imposed on us by the loss of some resource or utility. Here are some examples of contributors dilemmas, also known as Public Goods dilemmas: Charity Should I give to a good cause that would divide my contribution between many strangers, giving to each a tiny and perhaps imperceptible benefit? The answer may seem to depend on whether a sufficient number of other people can also be trusted to contribute, making our collective contributions worthwhile. However, Consequentialism (C) suggests we should contribute even if we are uncertain whether enough other people will contribute. When we are unsure what others will do we should act to produce the best expected outcome. We meet the opposite dilemma when we are confident that very many others will contribute, as is likely to be the case in some well publicised charity like the BBCs Children In Need, for example. It may seem in these cases that a certain threshold of contributors has been passed making our contribution unnecessary. Again this may seem to give us an excuse not to contribute. This is especially true where the anonymity of our contributions means that we escape the normal criticisms of being known to be uncharitable by other people. In fact, if everyone assumed that their contributions wouldnt be missed, then as


in the case of the Drops of water above, no one would contribute and the charity would fail to help anyone. The Fishermens Dilemma below is another classic example: The Fishermens Dilemma Each fisherman is faced with the choice of either catching as much as he can in order to maximize his personal wealth, or limiting his catch to ensure the continuation of fish breeding stocks in the sea. Acting selfishly in the case of the Fishermens Dilemma is worse for everyone. This is because if all fishermen act selfishly then everyone will suffer far more as a consequence of decimating fish stocks than each would suffer by just limiting their own catch. The high cost to all of too many people defaulting means we are morally obliged to cooperate. Whilst our innate moral conscious goes some way to ensuring we cooperate with each other, the high cost to everyone of defaulting in cases like the Fishermens Dilemmas means that we need politics and laws to augment our innate altruism. Laws punish cheats and ensure that we are dissuaded from acting selfishly when we live in large social groups like towns and cities. Enhancing Our Innate morality There are several ways that we can enhance our innate sense of fairness and morality which would lead to greater happiness for everyone: 1) Although we are generally disposed to believe that others are trustworthy and altruistic in nature to some degree, we should become more convinced of the trustworthiness and altruism of others, and become more trustworthy and altruistic ourselves. We would all benefit from the increased trust this would generate.


2) We should be reluctant to be, or be known to be, free riders. Partly because we know that free riders are punished by society. Knowing that others will be reluctant to be free riders is important in strengthening our belief that we can trust strangers. In order to maintain this belief we should always punish free riders. 3) We should adopt a Kantian style philosophy (see Chapter 6), where we would only do what we would wish everyone to do. 4) We should strive to be sufficiently altruistic but not to be pure do-gooders as this would be worse for everyone. These moral values would help to solve both The Prisoners Dilemma and The Contributors Dilemma. Summary Moral choices often seem to conflict with self-interest but as the many examples of Contributors Dilemmas demonstrate, acting selflessly can lead to outcomes that are better for everyone, whereas acting selfishly may lead to outcomes that are much worse for everyone. Unless something changes in our response to many-person Prisoners Dilemmas and Contributors Dilemmas, the outcome will be worse for all of us. There are two kinds of solution; political and psychological. The most important psychological solution involves reaffirming our innate morality with each other whenever we are given the opportunity in order to increase the level of trust in the world.


Chapter 6
Revising Common Sense Morality
Like Self Interest Theory (S) Common Sense Morality (M) is collectively but not individually self-defeating. If we all followed M, then in some situations like the Parents Dilemma (see Chapter 5), this would cause our M given aims to be worse achieved. The solution is to revise M so that it can switch from being agent relative to being agent neutral where required, as below: Common Sense Morality Revised - R When M is self-defeating each of us ought to give no priority to those whom he is M-related, if he believes that at least sufficient others will act in the same way. Kantian Morality This revised form of M above incorporates a Kantian style morality. Kantian morality states that it would be better for everyone if we only did what we would wish everyone else to do. For example, cheating might make my outcome better, but if everyone did it then it would make my outcome much worse. A Kantian morality cannot be collectively self-defeating. However, there are times when we would want to act in a non-Kantian way, such as when ignoring our special obligation to our loved ones would be so risky that it would be incompatible with our love for them. A good example of this would be an extreme version of The Parents Dilemma, such as being asked to risk the life of your child in order to save the life of a strangers child. In such situations we have no choice but to revert to M to preserve our special obligation to our loved ones. R simply allows for alternation between M and Kantian morality, as morally required. As Kantian morality is agent neutral it is ultimately concerned with consequences or outcomes, and so is a form of Consequentialism (C). 49

Because of this fact, in considering whether to swap M for R we also need to consider that what matters to us is not just the outcome of a situation, but also what we do to influence that outcome. Consider the case of adoption, for example. If our children were adopted as babies by strangers, and cared for by their adoptive parents as if they were their own, would we consider this to be equivalent to bringing up our children ourselves? We would not. What matters to us is not just that our children live happy lives but also that we are their parents. Conclusion We are now in a position to compare the attributes of Self Interest Theory (S) with those of different forms of morality. The Prisoners Dilemma show that S is collectively self-defeating as it would be worse for everyone if we all follow S. But S is not a theory about group action it is a theory about what an individual has reason to do, so S does not fail in its own terms. Common Sense Morality (M) is also collectively self-defeating so cannot replace S directly, as any moral theory should be collectively valid. Unlike S, however, M can be modified to R, thus incorporating the Kantian style morality of do as you would be done to. We can now tentatively make the following moral proposition: 1) We should follow M most of the time except in some situations like The Parents Dilemma where M is collectively selfdefeating. 2) If M is self-defeating then we should follow R and adopt a Kantian morality. However, because Kantian morality is a Consequentialist form of morality we need to take account of both ideal and practical scenarios. We should therefore only revert to R after carefully considering the following: i) We should act to preserve our special obligation to our loved ones at all costs. This is because some of our most important motives, like protecting the lives of our children, may be too fundamental to our definition of love to ever be abandoned. 50

This means that in some extreme cases of The Parent Dilemmas we should follow M even if M is self-defeating. ii) What matters to us is not just the outcome of a situation but also what we do to influence that outcome (remember the example of adoption). The biggest disagreement between moral theorists is between M and C as ideal moral theories. Parfit tells us that his theory, as outlined above, has not fully resolved this argument. He claims that it would take at least another book to do this successfully. Is his latest book On What Matters,29 that book?

Up to now we have only considered whether we can dismiss S as irrational in terms of it being purely agent relative, rather than it being flexible enough to incorporate being agent neutral where necessary. In Part Two we will look at how being temporally neutral is another failing of S, not only because it is unnatural for us to think this way, but because it is self-defeating.



Part Two
Rationality and Time



Chapter 7
The Best Objection to S
Our first attempt to refute Self-Interest Theory (S) focused on who we have reason to benefit through our actions. The debate focussed on whether, as S claims, it is only rational to be self-serving (i.e. to always act in an agent relative manner), or whether, as Common Morality (M) and Consequentialism (C) claim, it can also be rational to be selfless (i.e. to sometimes act in an agent neutral manner). We did not fully succeed in replacing S with M or C in this respect because S is not directly self-defeating, and because neither M nor C is capable of forming a fully successful moral theory on their own. In Part Two we will switch from debating who we have reason to benefit, to considering the temporal dimension of our desires. We need to ask which of our desires are the most important to us; our past, present or future desires? S claims that it is only rational to be temporally neutral and so to give equal weight to all of our lifes desires. Present Aim Theory, or P, challenges this position. As the name suggests, P tells us that what we have most reason to do is to satisfy our present aims. Unlike S, therefore, P is temporally relative. There is, however, another important difference between S and P. Unlike S, P does not state that our desires need be selfish desires. P can incorporate the desire to benefit others and to act against our own selfinterest. Because P can be moral in this way, it directly contradicts Ss claim that we only have reason to benefit ourselves. For S to survive it must be able to dismiss P both as a moral theory and as a theory about the rationality of being temporally relative. Let us look first at the moral aspect of P before we consider Ps temporal position.


The Three Versions of Present Aim Theory (P) 1) Instrumental Theory (IP): IP states that we should act to fulfil our present desire. 2) Deliberative Theory (DP): DP states we should only act after considering all of the facts. In DP no act can be irrational as acts are only performed after careful consideration of the pros and cons of the situation. What makes an act rational is simply that it fulfils our pre-defined desires (like our happiness). 3) Critical Present Aim Theory (CP): Like DP, CP also states that we should only act after considering all of the facts, but CP adds the caveat that some acts are irrational and so should be avoided. CP is necessary in order to avoid the ludicrous scenario in DP where someone would rather the whole world suffer in terrible agony if it meant that his itch could be scratched. This is certainly a decision that someone with a total lack of empathy could come to even after considering all of the facts. CP states that some acts are intrinsically irrational whilst others are rationally required. We could ask whether people really do have any truly irrational desires. When we unpack the actual object of a persons desire, apparently irrational motivations like the desire to jump when near a cliff edge, for example, is actually a desire to soar through the air; not to plummet to the ground and die. In this example, as well as many others, pleasure is the object of our desire which is not an irrational aim. Where pleasure is the object of our desires what we find pleasurable, no matter how odd cannot be irrational. If, however, given two options we choose the option that gives us the least pleasure, then this would be irrational if it could not be defended with some ulterior motive. Critical Present Aim Theory In order for present aim theory to be a rational basis for acting, we need to adopt Critical Present Aim Theory (CP) over IP and DP. CP is a superior form of P as it takes into account the need to fully consider all the facts and the need to acknowledge that some acts are intrinsically 56

irrational. CP can be further modified into what Parfit calls CP3 so that it is also agent neutral and therefore gives us a rational basis for selfless acts: CP3 If there is some desire that is 1) not irrational, and 2) no less rational than the bias in ones own favour, and 3) it is true of someone that, knowing the facts and thinking clearly, what this person most wants, all things considered, is to fulfil this desire, then 4) it would be rational for this person to fulfil this desire. CP3 tells us that moral acts can be rational if they satisfy a desire in us that is greater than that concerning our immediate self-interest. Consider the following example: My Heroic Death I choose to die a painful death because it will save the lives of several other people. I am doing what, knowing the facts and thinking clearly, I most want to do, and what best fulfils my present desires. I also know that I am doing what will be worse for me. If I did not sacrifice my life, to save these other people, I would not be haunted by remorse. The rest of my life would be worth living. On the above account, I sacrifice my life not because I do not care about my own survival, but because I care even more about the survival of these other people. CP3 states that this bias is no less rational than the bias in ones own favour. Remember that S claims that the bias in ones own favour is supremely rational. If CP3s claim that it is no less rational to care about others can be upheld, CP3 defeats S on this crucial point. CP3 shows, therefore, that if we add rational reasoning to a moral theory and we can disprove S as self-defeating, we are left with a rational reason to be moral and to ignore S.


Note that this defeat by CP does not depend on challenging Ss claim that it is rational to be temporally neutral. Let us now consider the temporal dimensions of CP and S. Different Attitudes to Time S claims that in our concern for our self-interest we can be temporally neutral, but is this claim valid? Fulfilment of desires is more important to us if they are strong desires, but does how long we have held a desire matter? And should we try to fulfil past desires? Lets start by looking at how CP can be modified into CP5 to cope with our changing desires over the course of our lives: CP5 Each of us is rationally required to care about his own self-interest. And this concern should be temporally neutral. Each of us should be equally concerned about all the parts of his life. But, though we should have this concern, this need not be our dominant concern. Because S is a theory about what we have reason to do across all parts of our life, our past, present, and future desires cannot contradict each other. This means that S cannot be temporally flexible like CP5 but instead requires that our ultimate aim should be to remain temporally neutral. This raises some interesting questions about how we should value past desires. Should I try to fulfil a past desire that I held for a long time in the past but that I no longer have any interest in; and the fulfilment of which would use resources that I could use to fulfil my current desires? Should I therefore give equal weight to all of my desires irrespective of my changing viewpoint with time? The obvious answer is that I should not, which means S must claim that we should make value judgments about whether or not to try to fulfil past desires and act accordingly. But if S concedes this point about past desires, then we can claim that S should also reject all present desires, as we may well have reason to change our value judgements of the worth of our present desires in the future. For example, as a young man I may hold radical political views that may embarrass me in the future if I 58

become more conservative. If S reverts to the claim that we should be temporally neutral with respect to our desires, then I would have to now support views that I find contemptible. Our Bias to the Near We have other temporal attitudes that conflict with S claim that we should be temporally neutral. Consider the fact that we have a discount rate with respect to time and we discount the nearer future at a greater rate. This is why we do not adhere to our resolutions. For example, I have a plaster that I need to remove from a particularly hairy part of my leg. I decide that in five minutes time I will remove it quickly and in one go, preferring a moments sharp pain to several minutes of discomfort. But as the time approaches I reverse my decision. We also have a more general bias to the future. Think about the excitement of anticipating a holiday compared to the dull sensation of remembering one, for example. Likewise, we find the anticipation of pleasure or pain in the future to be far more evocative than the thought of past pleasure or pain. Consider the example of a painful operation below: My Past and Future operations I am in hospital to have surgery that must be performed whilst I am awake so that I can cooperate with the surgeon. This operation may take a short time or a long time and is so painful that patients are given a pill afterwards to make them forget the operation. I have just woken up and I ask a nurse if it has been decided whether I am to have a short or long operation, and when it will be. She replies that she has only just come on shift, but she knows some facts about two patients; unfortunately she doesnt know which one I am. She knows that one patient has had his operation last night and it was the longest operation ever, lasting 10 hours. She knows that the other patient hasnt had his operation yet but that it is likely to be only a short one


hour operation later that day. Which patient would I rather be? Most people would rather have already had the operation, which argues against the validity of Ss claim that we should be temporally neutral. Our strong preference for pains to be in the past and not the future shows that our future bias is not irrational. It is not just because we cannot influence the past that we are biased to the future. Some aspects of our future may be inevitable, like some impending dental work, but this fact does not make its anticipation fall into line with our relief when something unpleasant is in the past. In considering the effects of our temporal bias on our lives it is only our bias towards the near that has the opportunity to be bad for us, not our bias towards the future in general. Our bias to the future is simply a preference for bad things to be in the past and good things to be in the future, but our bias to the near discounts for near benefits when in fact the near and the future both affect us equally. When considering what is best for someone else, we should not take into account that persons bias to the near, but rather we should consider what would be best for them over the longer term. Our bias to the near is an understandable adaptation to survival that dates, in some sense, all the way back to the first living organisms. Living for the moment has always been a necessary survival adaptation in a competitive and unpredictable world, where resources, food, and mates are usually in short supply. It is only where benefits are reliably to be found in the future (as is true for most of us in modern society) where being biased to the near is bad for us. Although we are temporally biased, S cannot claim that being temporally neutral is impossible for us, thus allowing S to claim it has no choice but to be temporally relative in practice. In some of our attitudes towards others we are temporally neutral. Consider the following example:


A Letter to a Dying Friend I learn that an old friend is dying and the only way of contacting him is by post. We parted in anger so I send him a letter asking to be forgiven. A week later I do not know whether my friend is alive or has received my letter. My strongest desire is that he gets my letter before he dies, but as I know that my friend will die sometime soon, I am indifferent as to whether his death is in the past or the future. This example shows that my desires are not all forward looking, which refutes Ss claim that an individual has no choice but to be temporally relative in practice. The Ideal Life If we were like a person who has no temporal bias at all, lets call him Timeless, we could live a happier life looking back as much as looking forward. Although we should not be relieved when bad things are in the past we would also not be sad when good things were in the past. As long as our lives were filled with more good times than bad times we would benefit from this change of viewpoint. We would also gain in terms of our attitude to ageing and death. Instead of feeling sad that we are growing old and our lives may soon be over, we could instead look back at the good times, and be happy that the older we get, the more good memories we will have to look back on. One limitation of this attitude to time, however, is that we are unable to feel the same level of excitement about the past as we do about the future. The benefits of thinking like Timeless were noted as far back as Ancient Greece. Epicurus claimed that as we did not regret our nonexistence before we were born, we should not regret our non-existence after our death.34 This argument fails, however, because we are future biased and do not feel the same regret for past non-existence as we do for future non-existence. Consider our attitude to pain, the fact that we do not regret past pain now does not mean that it was not bad at the time. The same could be true of our past non-existence.


Pain in the present is our strongest reason to doubt the validity of temporal neutrality. How can it not matter that we are in pain now, as opposed to that pain being in the past or the future? We are relieved when pains are in the past precisely because they are not in the present or the future. We are concerned when pains are in the future because at some point they will be in the present. The Passage of Time When asked at what speed time passes we realize that all we can say is that it passes at 1 second per second. According to Einsteins theories of relativity there is no intrinsic reason to expect time to pass at all. Time could be like a roll of film with discrete moments in time represented by the frames of the film. What we perceive as the moving present would then be more like the individual frames of the film moving across the lens of a projector, frame by frame. What this would mean if it were true is that the past and the future have all the same qualities of the present. It would then be hard to explain why when a pain has passed this would be cause for relief, or the fact that something good is in our future is a cause to celebrate now. An Asymmetry: Caring More about the Past Pains of Others A further argument against our ability to be temporally neutral is the asymmetry in our emotions concerning the past pains of others, compared to the way we feel about our own pains. Consider the example of my mothers past pains: Case One My mother is far away where I cannot contact her directly. I learn through a letter that she has only a short time to live because of some disease. I realize that because of the type of disease she has, she will be in terrible pain towards the end. I am greatly distressed at the thought that my mother will soon be suffering terribly. Suddenly I realize my mistake; the letter was dated last year and must have been lost in the post, she must already have passed away.


Should I be greatly relieved that my mothers suffering was in the past rather than the future? For most people the answer would be no. What matters would simply be the knowledge that their mother suffered, the timing of the suffering would be less important. But why should it be that I consider my past suffering to be of little concern compared to my future suffering, but I do not hold this same view about the suffering of loved ones? Case Two As Case One except that this time I learn that my mother had a period of one month before her death where she felt no pain. This time, irrespective of whether this event was in the past or the future, I am relieved that my mother had a pain free month before her death. There would have been a period of time when her suffering was in the past and she would have been able to look back on that period with relative indifference. Concern and Sympathy The scenarios above show that our feelings about past suffering can be split into concern, and sympathy. We can only feel sympathy for the past suffering of others, but we can feel concern for the present or future suffering of both ourselves and others. The asymmetry between our feelings for our own past suffering versus those of our loved ones further argues against Ss claim that we can be temporally neutral. Conclusion If times passage is an illusion then S can claim that our relief when our own pains are in the past is irrational. But S must also claim that our feeling of sympathy for the past pains of others is irrational. As demonstrated above we would find both of these claims hard to accept which is a weakness in S.



Chapter 8
Why We Should Reject S
The temporally neutral claim of Self-Interest Theory (S) is defeated by Critical Present Aim Theory (CP) in that it is impossible to be temporally neutral and to act purely in ones self-interest as S requires. This is because S cannot advocate that we satisfy our self-interest now if that means that our self-interest will be compromised later in life. S cannot survive if it is forced to be temporally relative. If S counters CP by claiming that being temporally neutral is the only rational stance available to us, then it is not clear why S should not also be agent neutral, and as such self-defeating. After all, S desire to benefit future selves is in some way similar to Common Sense Moralities (M) concern to benefit other people. M can therefore challenge S to justify why it is irrational to care about the wellbeing of others. Because CP is also to some degree temporally neutral by encouraging us to be equally concerned about all aspects of our life, the disagreement between CP and S is not simply over the fact that S is temporally neutral. It is more precisely a disagreement over whether being temporally neutral should be our ultimate aim. CPs claim that we should give special weight to our current aims, and therefore often act in a temporally relative manner, is incompatible with S claim that we should be exclusively temporally neutral. Even if it were possible to be exclusively temporally neutral as S claims, CP would still defeat S because CP is a rational theory that involves caring about the welfare of others, thus defeating S claim to be the only rational theory of what we have reason to do.


The Appeal to Full Relativity In order to counter the claim that S cannot survive being temporally neutral, S may claim that it can be temporally neutral by bringing all of our desires under the heading of our selfish intentions over the whole of our life. For this claim to be valid, however, it must be true that the relationship between different people is different in relevant aspects, to the difference between a person at one time and the same person, say, fifty years later. In order to refute this, consider the fact that a single person cannot hold the disparate beliefs that he may hold at two different times in his life at the same point in time (remember the example of my changing political views). This means that the relation between a person now and a person at different times is not different in relevant respects to the relation between different people, so we should reject S claim. This description of our lifetimes desires assumes that a unique self can exist as a continuous unit over time. But what if this concept of self is an illusion? Hume challenged the concept of self, calling it a fiction of merely coherent phenomena.31 He denied the existence of a permanent identical I over time. Common Sense Morality (M) agrees with S in presuming that we are a discrete unit throughout our life. S is therefore supported by M and together they challenge CPs temporal relativity. But if S asks, Why should I sacrifice my happiness for the happiness of another? CP can counter by asking, Why should I sacrifice a pleasure that I could have now for a greater one in the future?, Why should I concern myself about my future feelings any more than the feelings of others? CP therefore challenges S for being incompletely relative by wanting to be agent relative but temporally neutral. Either theories are relative or they are not. If they are relative then they must be fully relative which means we must reject S, CP and M. Although CP cannot directly replace S, CP can claim that it is rationally required to be moral. It can also give to moral reasons all of the weight

I intend to add a third part to this book to show how Parfit challenges the reality of our concept of self in the final section of Reasons and Persons.


that these reasons ought to have. Finally, all possible versions of morality are versions of CP so we should accept CP no matter what other moral theory we accept. Conclusion S claims that it is the only supremely rational theory as it is only rational to be concerned for ones self. S conflicts with morality most vividly when what we do benefits us but makes the outcome very much worse for others. This is because S claims that we must give supreme weight to our desires no matter what the cost to others. In Part I SelfInterest Theory (S) was challenged by our desire to be moral rather than selfish. Two competing moral theories were described: Consequentialism (C) and Common Sense Morality (M). Both C and M have their merits as a potential moral theory to replace S, but because each also has its limitations neither theory can replace S directly. Unlike S, however, both C and M can be revised to partly overcome their limitations. C needs to be revised so that it can to take into account both ideal and practical problems, and M needs to be moved to R to make it more like C, so making it successful at the collective level. Combining M with C in this way makes M very much more demanding, as being agent neutral forces us to consider not just our welfare and the welfare of our loved ones, but also the welfare of everyone else as well. The revised version of M claims that we should be agent neutral to at least some degree without forgetting our special obligation to our loved ones. This would then solve the Parents Dilemma. Parfit notes that it is tempting to imagine a complete theory of morality that combines C and M in a more comprehensive manner, but he does not believe that this would be an easy synthesis to achieve. In Part II, S was challenged by Present Aim Theory (P) which states that what we have reason to do is to satisfy our present aims. P was more successful at refuting S than C or M, because P can be moved to Critical Present Aim Theory (CP). CP challenges S by claiming that there are times when an agent, knowing the facts and thinking clearly, does not want to give supreme weight to his own desires (e.g. My 67

Heroic Death). CP therefore defeats S claim to be the only rational theory of what we have reason to do. CP also challenges S claim that our past desires are every bit as valid as our present and future desires. In fact, S claim is bolder still: S claims that we should always have a temporally neutral attitude towards our desires even if we dont want to, and no matter what the cost to others. But if S has reason to benefit its future selves does it not also have reason to benefit others? According to CP, I should have a temporally neutral concern for my own future, but this need not be my dominant concern. CP gives special weight to my present concerns, which is a weakness as I may desire things now that will be worse for me later. Both S and CP are therefore inter-temporally self-defeating to some degree. S sits somewhere between M and CP. S can survive an attack from each individually as it borrows falsely from the other to defend itself. S counters M by claiming that we have no reason to care about others, and counters P by claiming that we should value all of our desires over the whole of our lives, and not just our present desires. However, as Parfit predicted S cannot survive a combined attack. If S can reject M because M does not cause us to act purely in our self-interest, then P can reject S for not giving priority to our present desires. When both M and P tackle S together in this way they highlight the inconsistency in S not being fully relative. Parts I & II have shown that we should reject S because moral theories are no less rational, and because being incompletely relative is a failing in S. They have not succeeded, however, in offering a fully successful moral theory to replace S. But, as all moral theories are a form of CP we can conclude the following: A rational agent, who has considered all of the facts and is thinking clearly, has a rational reason to be moral and to consider the needs of others, rather than to be concerned purely with his own self-interest. S has been believed for more than two millennia so how can people have been so mistaken? Most people have assumed the existence of an 68

afterlife which would make morality coincide with S. Without an afterlife, S ceases to coincide with morality and it seems that we could rationally ignore the interests of others to benefit ourselves. The reason that we are not at liberty to ignore the interests of others is because it is no less rational to care for others than ourselves. Another reason that S has been believed for so long is that it is not wholly wrong. It is not irrational to care about our own self-interest, and perhaps we should become more temporally neutral as this would benefit us.

The End



Appendix 1
Waterboarding is intended to achieve the quickest results with minimal injury by inducing a very real fear of drowning. The website waterboarding.org47 describes the technique of waterboarding as follows: The person to be interrogated is strapped to a board. The head is tilted back and water is poured into the upturned mouth or nose. Eventually the subject cannot exhale more air or cough out more water, the lungs are collapsed, and the sinuses and trachea are filled with water. The subject is drowned from the inside, filling with water from the head down. The chest and lungs are kept higher than the head so that coughing draws water up and into the lungs while avoiding total suffocation.Survivors of near-drowning experiences report that the sensation of water flooding down the larynx and trachea as they struggle to breathe is the most terrifying aspect of the experience. In waterboarding, this begins quickly, long before the onset of oxygen starvation.



1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-overlapping_magisteria 2. http://www.samharris.org/the-moral-landscape 3. http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/019824908X. 001.0001/acprof-9780198249085 4. http://www.nature.com/news/the-split-brain-a-tale-of-twohalves-1.10213 5. Professor Brian Cox demonstrates why atoms are mostly empty space in this TV special; A Night with the Stars. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYa7DQdBmMk&feature=r elmfu 6. There are many other examples of this calculation on the web. Search under Caesars Last Breath Phenomenon. http://www.hk-phy.org/articles/caesar/caesar_e.html 7. http://libweb.anglia.ac.uk/referencing/harvard.htm 8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_egoism 9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology 10. http://www.psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/papers/pastpresent199 0.pdf (The EEA is discussed on p386-387). 11. http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_25 12. http://www.cdnresearch.net/pubs/others/trivers_1971_recip.pdf 13. http://www.uxbridgegazette.co.uk/west-london-news/localuxbridge-news/2012/07/12/longest-jail-sentence-for-vat-fraud113046-31380292/ http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-StrategyConflict-Tc-Schelling/dp/0674840313 14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties 15. http://www.decisionresearch.org/research/genocide/darfur/ 16. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erwann-michelkerjan/pakistanthe-collapse-of-_b_751192.html 17. http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/bk_amalek.html 18. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1572150/quotes 19. http://www.biblestudying.net/cosmo-5.html 20. http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/drunk-withblood-gods-killings-in-bible.html 73

21. http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/davidbrooks-and-the-evolution-of-human-altruism/ 22. http://c2377742.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/Twelve%20 Misunderstandings%20of%20Kin%20Selection.pdf 23. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheol 24. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic#cite_note-McClellan-1 25. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/datablog/2012/jul/16/2011census-results-data#_ 26. This excerpt is from the 13th paragraph down from the top of the page. http://www.newmanreader.org/works/apologia65/chapter5.html 27. Vintage clip of Richard Dawkins demonstrating the Tit for tat programmes success in the Prisoners Dilemma http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48EWLj3gIJ8 28. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~axe/ 29. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/Ethi csMoralPhilosophy/?view=usa&ci=9780199572809 30. See Part IV, Section 2, paragraph 30 http://www.davidhume.org/texts/thn.html 31. P.78 paperback edition http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/sep/23/scienceandnature .richarddawkins 32. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz 33. http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/114041.Epicurus 34. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity 35. See under Judaism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell 36. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+22&ve rsion=NIV 37. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+11&ver sion=NIV 38. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sacrifice 39. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus%2012: 29&version=KJV 40. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+22&ve rsion=NIV 41. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+6%3A 23&version=KJV 74

42. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+19%3 A14&version=NIV 43. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+5&ve rsion=NIV 44. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy% 206:15&version=NIV 45. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy% 2028:15-68&version=NIV 46. http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/bk_amalek.html 47. http://waterboarding.org/info 48. http://www.evilbible.com/Rape.htm 49. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma 50. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule 51. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel% 2015&version=KJV



About the Author

Richard Nevin was born in Croydon in 1966 and has worked as a Biomedical Scientist at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital since 2002. He gained his first degree in Natural Sciences from The Open University in 2000; studied for a PG Cert in Biomedical science in 2001; and gained a Masters degree in Immunology at Kings College London in 2005.


Rational Morality
Richard Nevin

For the last two millennia it has been assumed that morality and selfInterest coincide. Most religious doctrines like Christianity and Islam, for example, teach that selfless acts will be rewarded in the after-life so that to be moral is in an individuals interest in the long-term. But if there is no God, no heavenly surveillance, and no arbiter, do we still have reason to be moral? Can it be really be rational to be selfless? This short book is based on Derek Parfit's seminal work 'Reasons and Person's' and proposes a rational basis for morality that is independent of religious doctrine and that challenges the long standing superiority of Self-Interest Theory.